Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) took her fourth UCI Women's WorldTour victory of the year at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. She caught solo attacker Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) in the final and powered away on the uphill finish.
After the race, van der Breggen gave credit to Spratt's attack just after the Roche-aux-Faucons climb, breaking free just as two groups had come together. "It was a really good attack from Amanda. I was with Megan in the group, and of course you want to go across, but you don't want to go too early and spend too much energy. There were some attacks, but I knew the hard climb of Saint-Nicolas was still coming up and waited for that."
Spratt was aware that there would be attacks on the Saint-Nicolas and said after the race that she tried to maximise her advantage ahead of the climb. "It was a good moment to attack, and the gap kept going up. I knew I needed a fair chunk of time on the second-last climb [Saint-Nicolas, ed.] as people like Ashleigh and Anna would attack there. I was just hoping to hang on to the top."
Although Spratt did manage to crest the Saint-Nicolas first, she got company soon after. And with van der Breggen bridging to her, the Australian knew that winning the race would be hard. "She is the world number one for a reason. I thought maybe I had a chance to stick with her and get her in the sprint. I knew it was only Ashleigh and Annemiek behind, so I could sit on and hope to stay on her wheel. But she just drilled it up the final climb, and I didn't have anything left."
Despite missing out on the victory, the past week was a successful one for Spratt as she also finished third in the Amstel Gold Race and fifth in the Flèche Wallonne. "I was sick during the cobbled classics and missed some races and training. But in the end it was a blessing in disguise as I was fresh going into the Ardennes races, and these were the ones I really wanted to go well in. Last year top-30 was good for me, and now I'm top-five in all three, so I'm super-happy."
The expectations on van der Breggen were markedly higher going into the week: Having won all three Ardennes races in 2017, she was the rider everyone watched. She acknowledged the challenge in her post-race interview. "It's difficult to be good when everybody expects you to be good. But I try not to listen too much to it, to enjoy the race and see how it goes. Then the pressure is less in your mind. I knew the training was going well, and I felt better than last year. But I'm not the only one, the whole peloton is improving, and that's great to see. It was difficult to win today, so I'm happy we could take it."
Van der Breggen enjoys active racing and was happy to see the other teams taking the fight to Boels Dolmans. But she also remarked on the lack of television coverage for the race. "I love to see the other teams really take initiative. That's a way of racing which is really exciting, and I'm sad it was not on television today. Hopefully in the future it will be."
Van der Breggen now takes a break from racing before starting the second part of her season at the Emakumeen Bira in mid-May. The UCI Women's WorldTour continues from April 26-28 with the Tour of Chongming.
Listen to post-race interviews with van der Breggen and Spratt in the Voxwomen videos below.